Posted by: Ele Quigan | October 5, 2012

Savages – Don Winslow aka Drug fiction, and why I find it so damn interesting

SavagesFeels like I’ve read a bit of drug fiction lately. Not really sure why. I’ve been busy at work, maybe some sense of escapism? Maybe the thought of ‘f*ck it, I’ll chuck my savings into Heroin by the KG and be a millionaire?’ ridiculous because a. I don’t have the spine to be a dealer and b. the whole concept of it freaks me out a bit… but I digress.

I picked this book up on the way to the airport, unprepared for a long flight /train ride to the airport (this is happening far too often) so trusty old buy 1 get 1 half price sucks me in every time. So why this?

Interestingly, a terrible movie review.

Oliver Stone is a director I admire. I remember sitting through all of JFK totally floored. Any given Sunday? similar. I thought it was one of the best movies I’d seen when I first saw it. Wall Street? A quick wake up call into the realities of finance. They’ve always been interesting character set ups. Dark themes. Real people. Real stories.

So the one reviewer who I really really really don’t like on The Guardian decided to completely slate the film version of this 2010 book. 1 star. 1 measly star

So the beautiful film art caught my eye. Benicio Del Toro. Salma Hayek. John Travolta. sold.

The story? Beautiful. The writing? Beautiful.

The breaks into free
poetry, and counter comments on what life truly is?
The dark, the history, the past that overshadows the present

I don’t know quite why, but this book hit me like none had hit me for a long time. I mean it was weird, the subject matter was like a cheap thriller. 2 small town drug producers become too large, and the big cheeses decide it’s time to take over their operation, oh and by the way they steal the communal girlfriend to ensure they seal the deal. Dimestore thriller. Pulp fiction.

But it’s not.

It’s funny.

It’s poetry.

It’s honest.

It’s anti-war.

Anti the drug war.

It’s beautiful.

“In his mind’s eye, though, he sees—
moving like scorpions across a similar landscape
his own caravan blown to shit
blood streaming from buddies
Now I’m one of them
He sights in again.
No time for
Lack of PTSD
He only hopes that
Gentle Ben
Increase-the-Peace Ben
is one of them, too, now.
Now, Ben.
Find your inner Taliban.”

It’s the book I wish I was able to write, on a subject matter that’s foreign to a point (Europe? Mexican cartels who behead people? no. we’re too civilised over here…), and it somehow manages to retain a sensitiveness to the characters (the war vet, the do gooder, the rich bitch), the subject (drug dealing, mexican cartels, the movement of the drug war from outside america, to its doorstep, to right on inside it) to feel almost truthful and allegorical.

The good guys always win right?



  1. Ele, I am absolutely hooked on this book, and will soon be out lurking the streets in search of my next Don Wilmslow fix!

    • It’s awesome right! Such a surprising find… I’m going to grab a couple of his others as well, and keen to catch the film too!

  2. Have you read his prequel to Savages, The Kings of Cool? If you liked this, TKoC will floor you.

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